i n c r e d i b l e.
In one word, that’s what my summer spent at Microsoft was.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend my first co-op term working for Microsoft in Redmond doing the Explore program.
If you’ve never heard of the Explore program, or just want to know more, check out https://careers.microsoft.com/students/explore where you can also submit your application!
I’m writing this post because I know a lot of you will be applying for summer internships soon, and I would HIGHLY recommend adding Explore Microsoft to your list on huntr (just a neat little site I like to use to track my job applications).
Quick Background on Me
I had just finished off my first term of computer engineering at the University of Waterloo when I applied. My grades weren’t fantastic, I wasn’t a part of any special design teams or clubs, and I had no real experience in the tech industry whatsoever.
Applying to Microsoft for co-op was like buying a lottery ticket. You do it for the hell of it when you’ve got a spare minute, but you don’t actually expect to win.
I won. And I felt like I was Charlie fucking Bucket winning the Golden Ticket.
I’ll spare you the details of the application and interview process because I could write an entire post on that. (p.s. lmk if you’d be interested in me actually writing a blog post on that o.o )
I flew out to Redmond, and immediately fell in love with how close to work I was living. I could literally cross the street, and take one of Microsoft’s employee shuttles to work. Took maybe five minutes of walking, and that was a highlight to my lazy ass’s morning every day.
I spent the first week (okay, month) getting to know my pod (two other co-op students from Waterloo. s/o to Shan and Dasha ❤), my team, and figuring out what the hell was going on.
We spent the first chunk of our internship program managers (PMs), scoping out our project and deciding on what exactly we wanted to build. We spent forever in our office arguing over terminology and designs and features, and then another forever in meetings arguing about the exact same things.
I didn’t really understand what a PM did going into it, and to be completely honest, I still don’t really understand what a PM does coming out of it.
It’s hard to put down in a few short sentences what being a PM means, and I mean that in the best way. Our time as PMs shaped and defined our project. It helped us create realistic timelines and schedules that our software engineering time would follow. It gave us clarity over what we really wanted to achieve. And at the end, it got us out to real people who were excited and eager to use it.
I love to build things, and being a software engineer was so much fun that I decided to come back again as a software engineering intern, but it takes incredible communication skills, time, and smart documentation to get people to actually use what you’ve built.
Final remarks on being a PM:
I didn’t love it when I was doing it, but I think that’s because I didn’t really GET it and because I was itching to actually write some code. I just saw it as something I had to get through to get my hands on a code base.
Looking back at it now, I appreciate PMs so much, and especially towards the end of our internship, I loved the job so much. That may have also been because I was burnt out from writing code, but I’ve come out of my internship knowing that I’d love to try being a PM again.
Here’s what I loved about working as a software engineer.
- I made a bomb-ass project.
- I learned so many new things about coding so quickly.
- Our project looked great.
- I love writing code.
So here’s the thing. I was way too overconfident walking into my internship. I heard about our prospective project from my manager, and I was like, hey. I’ve basically built this before. I want a challenge, and I think this is going to be too easy.
BOY was I wrong.
It takes a lot of editing, and revision to make a working and efficient final product. It takes a lot of time trying to figure out how to integrate with massive new systems. It takes a lot of time to understand what’s already being built, and what can be used from other teams in a company as huge as Microsoft.
We spent longer than expected building our project, but I think it turned out great. Even if no one is using it now (fingers crossed that people are still using it now), I was ridiculously proud of my pod and myself.
That’s all I’ll say about being a software engineer for now, because I’ll be doing it again in January so stay tuned!
The Social Network
Let me just start off by saying that I’m not the most outgoing person. I, and many personality tests, would classify myself as an introvert, so I find it hard and awkward to interact with new people.
Microsoft is great at opening doors for interns. Literally, no door was ever closed to me or my friends. We booked meetings with some hard to reach people, got to attend Q&A sessions with the top executives, and were never really told no.
There was a great social group for interns, where full time employees would take time out of their lives to hang out with us doing fun events like kayaking, scavenger hunts, escape rooms, etc.
There was also this amazing program they ran where interns got to be matched with a full time employee every few weeks just to chat and network.
It really showed that we were valued as interns, and that people at the company were invested in our success and excitement, which in turn made us more excited about the company.
I made so many friends during my short time at Microsoft, which is a feat in itself because of how awkward and reclusive I am, but it pushed me to network and be more social.
The Explore Microsoft program is one of the best things you could do for an internship.
Start looking at it now, start applying, start preparing for the best summer of your life.
You get to experience being both a PM and a software engineer in one internship, which makes it a great exploration into the tech field. You become invested in your product, and you drive it from beginning to end which gives you a real sense of ownership over what you’re doing.
As an intern, you are valued way more than you probably should be. You get free gifts thrown at you, schedules cleared for you, and events thrown for you every week. (the perks really are ridiculous; ex. The Chainsmokers and Daya)
You make some of the best friends you’ll ever have, experience Washington in ways you’ve never done before, and learn so much you’ll feel like you just did three terms in one.
I grew so much technically, but this internship really helped me grow as a person, and I think that that is priceless.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, or want to know more!